You’re bloated, hormonal, tired, and nauseous, like, all the time. It’s no wonder sex is the last thing on your mind during pregnancy. But staying connected with your partner is in some ways more important than ever since your baby will depend on your united front for love and stability. Plus, having intercourse during pregnancy can actually be beneficial for you, and even baby, and psst, enjoyable!
“Pregnant women with strong healthy relationships lead to healthier behaviors during pregnancy and better birth outcomes,” explains Brett Worly, MD, an OB/GYN and female sexual dysfunction expert at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. “Intimacy and sex help provide feelings of happiness, pleasure, closeness, and vitality,” adds New York City-based sex therapist Madeleine Castellanos, MD.
“For some women pregnancy means liberation, when they no longer have to worry about contraception,” Worly says, but for others, getting in the mood is harder than finding a comfortable sleeping position. The latter camp: these tips are for you.
Take it slowly
If you’re feeling anxious about getting in nookie at all, don’t sweat it. “Pregnancy is not a time to pressure a woman into sex, make her feel bad about her body, or make her feel guilty if her libido is not as strong as it once was,” Worly says. “Increasing desire and emotional connection can be really helpful in any person and at any time, and pregnancy is no exception.” He recommends studying up with books such as Rekindling Desire or Passionate Marriage. Then, try focusing on what gives pleasure, be it a foot massage (which increases oxytocin and arousal), or self-pleasuring.
Take advantage of your second trimester
During pregnancy, sex may come to a grinding halt, especially at first. “Usually women are much less amorous during their first trimester simply because they just don’t feel well,” says Castellanos. The good news? Many women feel better during the second trimester, so it’s worth getting in as much as you can those three months, since the third trimester brings further obstacles (hello, huge bump!).
Put matter over mind
Impediments to intercourse are often more than just physical. “Body parts that were usually used mostly for sexual intimacy now have implications beyond that role, as motherhood approaches,” Worly explains. You may also worry (unnecessarily) that intercourse will harm the baby. “The design of a woman’s body is such that a baby is well protected in the uterus during pregnancy. Because of the cervix, the penis cannot touch the baby and so cannot hurt the baby at all! Sexual activity is no more dangerous or disturbing for a fetus than the woman riding in a car over potholes or a speed bump,” Castellanos reassures. “I recommend that partners focus on what is most erotic for them in order to fill their mind with sexy thoughts rather than anxious thoughts that will keep them disconnected from their own arousal.”
No screens in bed
Ditching distracting technology from the bedroom can help boost your one-to-one time (i.e. PUT DOWN THE GOOGLE MACHINE). After all, physical intimacy grows out of an emotional connection, Worly says: “Optimally couples would have 30-60 minutes daily to connect in an uninterrupted, screen-free zone.”
Cultivate a dirty mind
Thinking about sex even when you’re not in the middle of it will keep you in the right frame of mind when you are. “It is vital that couples create space for the erotic in their lives—both with time set aside for sex and closeness, as well as with mental attention devoted to positive thoughts about sex,” Castellanos says.
Pregnancy hormones can cause vaginal dryness, according to Castellanos. “When couples are ready for intimacy using a lubricant like Replens Silky Smooth or Wet Platinum will help make things more pleasurable and erotic,” she says.
Find the right position
Be sure to find a comfortable position for sex—and getting creative with pillows helps! “Usually laying on her left side will be the most comfortable without decreasing circulation to the baby,” Castellanos advises.